Tag Archives: James Gandolfini

My Favorite Mobsters: My Picks of the Top Ten “Made Men” to Grace the Silver and Small Screen

Why are we so fascinated by mobsters?  Is it the way they talk?  (“Fuhgeddaboutit!”  “I’m gonna make him an  offer he can’t refuse!”  “Go to the mattresses.” “I amuse you?  I make you laugh?”)  Their funny accents?  Those snazzy suits and hats they always wear? 

Or perhaps it’s something deeper.  After all, mafia men are loyal to a fault.  They adhere to a strict code of honor.  They place the institution of  “family” above all else.  If you really think about it, mobsters were the first, and ultimate, “bad boys.”  The most successful ones are powerful, strong,  sexy . . . and deadly dangerous.

So, without further adieu, here’s my list of the Top Ten Fictional Mobsters of all time . . .

10) Fat Tony  – The Animated Mobster

Show of origin:  The Simpsons

Played by:          Joe Montegna (he does the voice)

Why he made the list: 

Fat Tony is a successful amalgamation of pretty much every movie and television mobster ever invented.  But he still manages to have his own unique style.  It’s really hard to be intimidating when you are drawn in colored pencil, and have a face like a muppet.  Yet, Fat Tony somehow manages to be genuinely menacing.  Interestingly enough, the character’s appearance is based on that of an actor who frequently appears in mafia films (and was just shy of making this list).

Paul Sorvino (Now can you see the resemblance?)

9) Sonny – The Mobster with a Heart of Gold

Film of origin:  A Bronx Tale

Played by:        Chazz Palminteri

Why he made this list:

Sure, Sonny may have shot a man in cold blood over a parking space, but it was really to protect Joe Pesci!  And, yes,  Sonny beat the stuffing out of an entire biker gang, but they had been destroying family-owned bars across the country!  When you really think about it, this New York mob boss was a pretty good guy, as far as racketeering murderers go.  And he seemed to really care about young Calogero (“C”). 

Sonny acted as a second father to C (His biological father was played by Robert De Niro, who is also on this list, TWICE.  However, not for this movie, where he played a law-abiding bus driver.)  He taught C the ins and outs of life, lectured him about staying in school, gave him advice on women, tried to keep him away from a life of crime, and, most importantly, saved his life.  Oh, and he also taught him how to gamble.  Gambling is fun!

8) Consigliere Tom Hagen – The Smart Mobster

Film of origin: The Godfather (Parts I and II)

Played by: Robert Duvall

Why he made the list:

Not all mobsters were Italian.  Some were of German and Irish descent, like Tom Hagen.  (Can’t you tell by the name?)  Tom was an educated man, a lawyer.  He acted as a sage, and mild-mannered advisor, first to Vito Corleone, and, later to his son, Michael.  Despite, living and working amongst mobsters, Tom more or less managed to keep his hands clean.  And while he remained loyal to The Family throughout his life, he did so without ever committing an act of violence.  (Then again, he did convince that one guy to commit suicide.  Not cool, Tom!)

7) Sylvio Dante  – The Loyal Rocker Mobster

Played by :         Steven Van Zandt

Show of origin:  The Sopranos

Why he made the list:  

Oh how, I love Sylvio, let me count the ways.  First and foremost, he has cool Elvis hair.

And the actor who plays him rocks out with a band from my home state of NEW JERSEY!  Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, of course!

Silvio was probably the toughest muscle of Tony Soprano’s gang.  However,  unlike the hot-headed Paulie Walnuts (we’ll get to him later), he never lost his cool.  When others came to doubt Tony’s leadership, Sylvio was unfailingly loyal.  Sylvio detested rats above all else, and most of his victims were snitches and informants of some sort.  (And no one likes THEM, anyway, right?)

6) Jimmy “The Greek” Conway – The Strong and Silent (but Deadly) Mobster

Film of origin:   Goodfellas

Played by: Robert De Niro

Why he made this list:

Like Tom Hagen, Jimmy is an Irish mobster (although, truthfully, it’s hard to imagine De Niro as anything other than Italian).   And like Silvio, he is the mild-mannered muscle of his crew.  Although, Jimmy’s origin of descent prevented him from becoming a true “made man,” he never complained.  While his hands may have been dirtier than anyone else’s in his Family, Jimmy never let his job diminish his sense of class and style.  A

fter a big score had left them with untold riches, Jimmy cautioned his crew against dressing and behaving too ostentatiously.  Oh yeah, and the dude can smoke a cigar like no one’s business . . .

5) Vito Corleone – The Old School Mobster

Film of origin: The Godfather (Parts I and II)

Played by:       Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro

Why he made the list:

Honestly, how could I make a mobster list, without including the original mobster himself?  Vito was the King of the Mobsters.  The mobster on which all subsequent film and television mobsters are undoubtedly based.  And if his character didn’t have to go and die on us at the end of the first Godfather movie (we saw him in the second one only through flashbacks), I have no doubt that he would be significantly higher on this list. 

You know what?  I’m not even going to tell you why Vito is so cool.  I’m going to let him show you for himself . . .

4) Paulie Walnuts – The Wal – NUTS Mobster

Show of origin: The Sopranos

Played by:          Tony Sirico

Why he made the list:

In short, Paulie made this list because he is bat sh*t crazy!  If Silvio is the man on the Soprano’s crew you’d most want to have your back, Paulie is the one you’d most want to take out for beers.  Between his kick ass one-liners, his random flip outs, and his childlike constant need for approval, hot-headed Paulie Walnuts is nothing if not entertaining.  And talk about loyalty to family, the dude beat up an old lady, just because she wasn’t playing nicely with his mother!  Plus, he has awesome Pepe Le Pew hair . . .

(Notice the resemblance?)

3) Tommy DeVito – The Loudmouthed Mobster

Film of origin: Goodfellas

Played by: Joe Pesci (Here’s another guy that I couldn’t dream of making a Mob Hit List without!)

Why he made the list:

I’m pretty sure, a lot of what is awesome about Paulie Walnuts was inspired by this guy.  Tommy DeVito was a hotheaded sociopath, who loved killing and beating the crap out of people. In fact, he did it regularly, often for NO REASON AT ALL.  Murderous tendencies aside, he seems like a pretty cool guy to spend an evening with.  Just don’t call him funny . . .

2) Michael Corleone – The Reluctant Mobster

Film of origin: The Godfather (Parts I, II and III)

Played by: Al Pacino

Why he made the list?

Do you even have to ask?  Michael Corleone was the quintessential mob boss.  But what made him so interesting and unique was that he never wanted to be one.  Born into a notorious crime family, Michael escaped his roots at the age of 18, and went on to become an Ivy League graduate, and war hero.  He then married the straight-laced daughter of a Baptist minister, in hopes of becoming a law-abiding family man, with a lowercase “f.”

But Michael soon gets sucked into the Family’s web.  When two nearly successful attempts are made on his father’s life, he is forced to avenge them.  After his father’s death, Michael is forced to replace him as head of the Corleone crime family.

Although throughout the trilogy, Michael makes numerous attempts to legitamize the Family business, he is continually thwarted by circumstances beyond his control, as well as his growing greed and hubris.  Of all our mob men’s stories, his is perhaps the most tragic.  And that’s why we love him.

1) Tony Soprano – Jersey Mobster Supreme

Show of origin: The Sopranos

Played by:          James Gandolfini

Why he made the list?

There are those of you out there who would undoubtedly like to give me flack for placing Tony Soprano above Michael Corleone on this list.  However, I have had eight years to get to know the former, and only a few hours to get to know the latter.  So, you will have to forgive me my sacrilege. 

Tony Soprano remains one of the most complex characters in television history.  On one hand, he is a hardened criminal, a violent and cold-blooded killer — a man who regularly cheats on his wife, who betrays his former friends and members of his family.  Sure, you could probably justify his murder of Tony Blundetto as a mercy killing, a rival family was going to do him in, anyway.

And his murder of Adrianna could be called a “protective measure.”  She was going to turn Tony and the rest of the Soprano family over to the FBI.

But his shocking “hands-on” murder of protégé and adoptive nephew Christopher Moltisanti during the show’s final season? 

I’m scratching my head over that one . . .

On the other hand, Tony Soprano was always somewhat of a flawed every-man.  He tried desperately to be a good dad to his two children, a good brother to his younger sister, and a good son to his spiteful, mean, and often unappreciative mother.  And before he killed Christopher, he really did care for him like a son or younger brother (if that counts for anything).  Tony also suffered from debilitating depression and panic attacks, both of which made him seem more fragile and human.

It was these physical and emotional ailments that caused Tony to seek treatment from psychiatrist Dr. Melfi.  During these therapy sessions,  we got to see a softer side of Tony — a side that experienced guilt and remorse over his actions, one that loved and deeply cared about those around him.

Dr. Melfi brought out the best in Tony Soprano.  And even though, these two never crossed the line romantically, the intelligent interplay and sexual tension between them was extremely HOT!

This is why Tony Soprano, tops my list.  And why, I REFUSE to believe that he died during that maddening fade-to-black series finale!  In fact, I am so certain, that Tony merely finished his onion rings, waited until Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing finished playing on the juke box, and drove home, that I’ve decided to leave you with a video of the awesome opening credits to one of the best television series of all time. 

After all, these credits show a living, cigar-smoking Tony Soprano commuting home from work on the New Jersey Turnpike.  And that’s what I truly believe he will be doing tomorrow evening . . . at least in TV Land!

 

 

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Filed under film, Mobsters, television, Top Ten Lists

Create Your Dream Cast: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

One of my favorite reads of 2009 was Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.  The novel follows Katniss Everdeen, a strong willed 16-year old girl, who is forced to take part in a nationally televised fight-to-the-death survival competition against 23 other teenagers in the post-apocalyptic fictional nation of Panem.  From page 1, The Hunger Games is the quintessential page turner.  It transports you into another world and keeps you there, long after you’ve completed the book.

Collins does not discriminate, and there is something here for all ages, sexes, and book preferences: a bunch of knock-down drag-out, surprisingly gory, fights for the action buffs, a romantic triangle for the lovers, political intrigue for the Tom Clancy and David Baldacci inclined, a futuristic otherworld for the fantasy and sci fi geeks, adolescent angst for the teens, dry humor for the comedy lovers, and tons of thinly veiled pop culture references and digs at reality television for entertainment addicts.

The Hunger Games is actually the first novel of a trilogy series.  Its also-excellent sequel, Catching Fire, is already a bestseller.  The third book of the series, Mockingjay is due out August 24, 2010.  However, the novel is already available for pre-order on Amazon.  (Only $8.50 for a hardcover!  Way cheap!)

When I learned that Lionsgate Entertainment had purchased the film rights to The Hunger Games, and the Suzanne Collins, herself, was hired to write the script, I was excited and highly intrigued.  This book has surefire blockbuster written all over it!  The news got me to thinking about who they were going to cast for the major roles in this film — and, more importantly, who I would cast if I were making this film . . .

So, without further adieu, here are my casting pics for Lionsgate Entertainment’s adaptation of The Hunger Games:

Katniss Everdeen

My pick: Ellen Page

Why?  Although technically a bit older than Katniss (aren’t they all?), Page has the physical look of the character, as well as Katniss’ tough exterior and inner vulnerability.  She also brings to the table a recognizable name that will inevitably bring big box office bucks to the film.  Page definitely has the acting chops for this complex and meaty role.  Plus, if the X Men films, Whip It, and the ultra-dark indie film Hard Candy are any indication, she also possesses the strength and deft to pull off some fairly hardcore stunts, which may be necessary, given the action aspects of this novel.

Peeta Mellark

My pick: Sterling Knight

Why?  Like Page, Knight definitely looks the part here.  As the attractive and inherently likeable boy-next-door type, who may or may not be completely trust worthy, the actor who plays Peeta must appear both sweet and a tad sly.  I think Knight has what it takes to be both.  Best known for his role as Chad Dylan Cooper in Disney Channel’s tween sitcom Sonny with a Chance, Knight has already shown himself capable of playing the male lead in a love/hate type relationship.  I think he and Ellen Page would play off one another well, with respect to the romance aspects of this tale.  

As far as action scenes, I’m not sure whether Knight has what it takes, as I’ve never seen him act in any particularly physical roles.   Then again, Peeta always struck me as kind of a wimp (sorry girls).  So, athleticism may not be entirely necessary here . . .

Gale Hawthorne

My pick: Taylor Lautner

 

Why?  This one may be a bit of a stretch, seeing as Lautner is such a big name in Hollywood now, and Gale’s role in The Hunger Games is a relatively small one.  (Gale plays a much bigger part in The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, however).  And yet, I can’t help but think Lautner was made for this role!  Dark complextion, killer abs, physical prowess, the ability to brood and pine over unrequited love, all the while being all-manly / hunting stuff . . . who could ask for a better Gale than Lautner?  Plus, we all know how much Taylor loves his love triangles . . .

Haymitch Abernathy

My pick: James Gandolfini

Why?  Yeah, I know, this is also a bit of wishful thinking on my part . . .  But I LOVE my Gandolfini!  Plus, I think he would be awesome as this gruff and hard-drinking, yet wise and loyal, former Games winner and mentor to Katniss and Peeta.  And, it’s my cast, dammit!  So, I’ll hire who I want!

Effie Trinket

My pick: Kristin Chenoweth

Why?  Chenoweth has the sophisticated look, chirpy ebullience, and high-pitched (at-times grating) speaking voice to pull off District 12’s well-meaning, but slightly haughty, PR representative, Effie Trinket.  I’ll cast her in this role on one condition . . .  she MUST sing at least once during the film!

Cinna

My pick: Adam Lambert

Why?  Lambert has the guy-liner, fashion sense, natural flamboyance, and addiction to hair dye necessary to pull off Katniss’ personal stylist for the Games.  Granted, I’m not really sure Lambert has any acting experience (unless you count those daytime talk show interviews).  However, Cinna never struck me as a particularly complex role.  So, I think Adam could pull it off.  Plus, those American Idol fans would go wild!

Primrose Everdeen

My pick? Elle Fanning (Dakota’s little sister)

Why?  Honestly, I don’t have much to say here.  The role calls for a fair-haired and cherubic pre-teen to play Katniss’ little sister.  I am pretty sure there is actually a law in Hollywood that states that whenever a role like this is created, a Fanning must be cast in it.  So, here we are . . .

Mrs. Everdeen

My pick: Toni Collette

Why?  The role calls for someone who is believable as the slightly unstable and depressive herbalist mother of both dark-haired tomboy, Katniss, and girly blonde, Primrose.  I think Collette fits in quite nicely here . . .

Well, there you have it.  Now, it’s your turn.  Hop on to that casting couch (no pun intended), and pick your favorites.  Who knows?  Lionsgate Entertainment just might be listening . . .

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Filed under casting, Novel, The Hunger Games